If I was in a relationship with the DuPont Beach Trail, our Facebook status would be “It’s complicated!” I love DuPont Beach, but I find getting there to be very annoying. I have the additional problem of forgetting just how annoying the hike is to me. So every few years I come back to enjoy the view, complaining about the difficulty of the trail about 90% of the way.
The trailhead for this trail is at the end of Thane Road, about five miles south of downtown. I was there at 7:15am. I turned on my MapMyWalk app and started walking. About five minutes later I came to the first payoff of this trail – a very nice waterfall flowing at about a 50 degree angle and creating whirlpools around the bridge I was standing on. Up to this point, the trail could ALMOST be accessed by a wheelchair. The bridge has seen wear and tear lately and showed a few repairs. Part of the bridge was low enough that it got wet from the waterfall spray. After a few minutes admiring the falls I was on my way again. About ten minutes after that, the trail turned very uneven with roots and rocks. It is not the sort of trail you want to be on a wet day. The trail got worse and I was scrambling up and down rocks, roots and doing my best to avoid being hit be Devil’s Club.
It could have been worse. This area sees a lot of windfall trees, but either Trail Mix, our local trails organization, or the US Forest Service does a great job of clearing the path. I passed through a number of sawed off trunks. If it wasn’t for this help, I and most people would have found the trail impassable. My hike went on and on. I’d pause once in a while to take in ravens and squirrels in trees, admire the tree canopy, glimpses of Douglas Island through the tree, etc. I was also pausing because negotiating this sort of trail was much harder than the much longer Treadwell Ditch Trail hike I did on Friday. On the DuPont Beach Trail you are constantly making decisions about where to put your feet. Mistakes can put you in the mud — or onto pointy rocks or off a cliff in a worst case scenario. So there is there a lot of mental effort in addition to the physical effort. At least for me. While I know some people travel this trail without a lot of trouble, the Forest Service rates this hike as difficult.
It’s about 1.7 miles from the trailhead to the DuPont beach. On level ground, I could cover such a distance in about 40 minutes. With all the roots, rocks and other obstacles, it took me over an hour and a half to reach the beach. The beach had a crumbling dock, on top of which sat a bald eagle. Off shore was a sail boat, a fishing boat and several skifs. It was glorious and reminded me why I put forth this effort. I stood on the brightly lit beach for a bit, then found a spot and had a fiber bar and a few drinks of water. There wasn’t really a great place to rest in the shade that didn’t have a lot of flying insects so I turned around after about 10 minutes and carefully picked my way back to the trailhead. In all, it took me 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 45 seconds to have a round trip of 3.45 miles. For comparison, last week I walked home from work. I covered 3.18 miles in 1 hour, 2 minutes, and 52 seconds.
I had a good time overall. I really did enjoy getting to DuPont Beach. But for the next few years before memory of the trail difficulty fades, I’ll avoid it as somewhere the payoff doesn’t match the effort invested. Juneau has 120 trails. I have better options. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself before I desire again to see the eagle topped ruins of DuPont.
DuPont/Pt. Bishop Trail, US Forest Service